Dallas Stalking Lawyer | Top Criminal Defense

What is considered stalking in Texas?

Stalking in Texas occurs when a person acts in a repeated manner in which their course of conduct puts another person in fear of damage to their property, bodily injury, or death. Our Dallas stalking lawyer explains the offense and defenses in detail in this article.

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In 2021, Texas broadened its stalking laws to give the state more options to charge the offense and to give courts the ability to enhance sentences for repeat offenders. Texas’ previous stalking statute only provided legal protection for the person being stalked, their family, and persons in their household. The change added individuals in a dating relationship. That means current girlfriends and boyfriends are protected against threatening conduct in stalking cases. Before the expanded law, they weren’t.

The updated statute also broadens the definition of what constitutes stalking with a subsection that includes “different types of conduct” that can be considered part of “the same scheme or course of conduct.” In short, the change makes it easier for the state to charge someone with stalking. For example, the alleged offender doesn’t have to repeat the same action more than once, such as showing up at a person’s office. The offender could show up at the person’s office and follow that with a threatening phone call or text message.Stalking in North Texas

How is stalking defined in Texas?

Texas Penal Code Sec. 42.072 defines stalking as any time a person, on more than one occasion, and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed specifically at another person, knowingly engages “in conduct that the actor knows or reasonably should know the other person will regard as threatening.”

This includes the fear of bodily injury or death to a person or a member of the person’s family or household or to a person with whom the target has a dating relationship.

The statute also includes the fear of an offense committed against the other person’s property.

Before the law was updated, a stalking charge generally required actions that went further than phone calls and texts. The content of those calls or texts, of course, could rise to the level of stalking in certain circumstances.

The updated law includes a wide range of emotions that could predicate a charge of stalking, including if the target feels “harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.”

Dallas Stalking

What does acting “knowingly” mean under Texas Law?

The Texas Penal Code says, “a person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.”

Put another way, a person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with regard to the essence of their actions or to circumstances surrounding their conduct when the person is aware of the essence of their conduct or that the circumstances exist.

This is important because the prosecutor, judge, and potentially a jury will attempt to discern the alleged offender’s thoughts at the moment of the action. A stalking charge in Texas requires a knowing mental state, meaning the accused knowingly was causing the target distress.

What are the penalties for a stalking conviction in Dallas?

The Texas Penal Code makes stalking a third-degree felony for a first offense, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Third degree felony in Texas
Third degree punishment range in Texas

If the defendant was previously convicted for the same offense, it is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

The changes in the Texas statute expanded the conviction enhancement to include stalking convictions from additional jurisdictions, not just those committed in Texas.

The convictions outside of Texas must involve the same elements of the Texas conviction. The change allows Texas to enhance a stalking charge and increase the punishment. Relevant “foreign convictions” include any of the following:

  • The laws of another state
  • The laws of a federally recognized Indian tribe
  • The laws of a U.S. territory
  • Federal law

Dallas Stalking Lawyer, Serving Dallas, and the Surrounding Areas

If you’ve been accused or charged with stalking in Dallas, you need to seek experienced legal counsel. The Varghese Summersett criminal defense team has five Board Certified Lawyers on its roster, which means we are considered experts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more expertise, knowledge, and skills under one roof at any other law firm in North Texas. We will work tirelessly to defend your rights and produce the most favorable outcome possible.

In this post, our Dallas stalking lawyer will explain how Texas defines stalking, examine the difference between stalking and harassment, look at how Texas handles cyberstalking, and review the punishment ranges for each of these offenses.

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Stalking facts and figures: How common is stalking?

The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center is a federally-funded project that provides education and resources about the crime of stalking. Some relevant statistics about stalking in the U.S. from stalkingawareness.org include:

  • About 13.5 million people are stalked in a year in the U.S.
  • Stalking victims are most likely to be under age 35
  • Women (19.9%) and men (16%) are nearly equally likely to be stalked
  • More than 50% of stalking victims were acquainted with their stalkers
  • Almost 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men report being victimized by stalking at some point in their life
  • More than half of stalking victims indicate they were stalked before age 25, and nearly a quarter of them were stalked before age 18
  • More than 80% of victims are stalked by someone they know
  • Female stalking victims are threatened with violence 69% of the time, and males are threatened with violence 80% of the time
  • Young adults aged 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking

What are the most common tactics of stalkers?

According to SPARC, the most common tactics of harassment used by stalkers include:

  • Making unwanted phone calls
  • Approaching the victim or showing up to places when the victim does not want them to
  • Following and watching the victim
  • Sending unwanted texts, photos, emails, and messages through social media
  • Sending unwanted gifts
  • Using technology to monitor, track, or spy on the victim

Examples of StalkingWhat is cyberstalking in Texas?

The internet and social media have made communication easy and pervasive. Unfortunately, it has opened another avenue for stalking. Cyberstalking is covered under harassment in Texas Penal Code Section 42.07. It is a separate offense from stalking, although closely related.

In a cyberstalking case, a prosecutor must prove there was an intention “to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another person.”

The statute says the alleged offender:

  1. Initiates communication and, in the course of the communication, makes a comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene;
  2. Threatens, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the threat, to inflict bodily injury on the person or to commit a felony against the person, a member of the person’s family or household, or the person’s property;
  3. Conveys, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the report, a false report, which is known by the conveyor to be false, that another person has suffered death or serious bodily injury;
  4. Causes the telephone of another to ring repeatedly or makes repeated telephone communications anonymously or in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another;
  5. Makes a telephone call and intentionally fails to hang up or disengage the connection;
  6. Knowingly permits a telephone under the person’s control to be used by another to commit an offense under this section;
  7. Sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another; or
  8. Publishes on an Internet website, including a social media platform, repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to cause emotional distress, abuse, or torment to another person, unless the communications are made in connection with a matter of public concern.

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What’s the difference between stalking and harassment in Texas?

Although there are similarities between stalking and harassment, they are different offenses. It’s possible for the same person to be charged with both offenses for one incident. Stalking is based on a pattern of behavior and is a third-degree felony. Harassment can arise from a single incident and is usually a misdemeanor.

What is the penalty for harassment in Texas?

Harassment is generally a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Under certain conditions, the charge can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, which could bring up to a year in prison and $4,000 fine. The charge could be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if the alleged offender meets one of the following conditions:

  • The accused has previously been convicted of harassment;
  • The accused encouraged a child to commit suicide; or
  • The accused encouraged a child to cause serious bodily injury.

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Are you facing stalking charges in Dallas? Call us.

The changes to the Texas stalking laws have made it easier for the state to charge and prosecute the accused. The consequences of a conviction are steep. If you or a family member has been charged with stalking in Dallas or the surrounding area, it’s important to contact an experienced Dallas stalking lawyer as soon as possible.  Our firm is made up of former prosecutors with unparalleled track records as criminal defense attorneys. Our experience can help save your future. Call us for a free consultation at 214-903-4000.

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